Check out our video review:
Call of Duty 4 is one of those landmark games. It broke away from the World War II setting the series was known for and even changed the multiplayer scene. I remember when it came out because it was like an instant hit and everybody was talking about it. I eventually got a copy for Xbox 360 and remember being disappointed with how short the campaign was. But I was impressed with the presentation and gameplay. I beat it multiple times and even once on Veteran, the hardest difficulty, something I’ll never do again because fuck the epilogue. Developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was released for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in November, 2007. It was remastered by Raven Software and released as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in November, 2016. For this review, I played the PC versions of both the original and remaster.
The story centers on a civil war that breaks out in Russia between its government and Ultranationlists, and a separatist group seizing power of an unnamed country in the Middle East. In typical Call of Duty fashion, the story puts the player in the shoes of multiple protagonists. You’ll play as British Special Air Service Sergeant John “Soap” MacTavish for most of the campaign and parts of it as United States Marine Corps Sergeant Paul Jackson. This is your typical Call of Duty tale, bouncing you around the globe, and focusing very much on cinematic style action.
On the surface, Call of Duty 4 is more of the same but with a new coat of paint, and, yes, that might sound like an oversimplification. It’s the same flashy run and gun action broken up by set pieces, except set in modern times. Call of Duty 4 is a linear game and the gameplay is still very much a shooting gallery and I think what really made it take off besides the multiplayer is the modern setting and incredible production values for its time.
All of the Call of Duty mechanics we’ve become familiar with are here including throwing back grenades. The arsenal is full of modern weaponry which all feel great to fire. The audiovisual feedback is excellent, blood from enemies will splatter on walls, enemies may stumble after getting hit, and their death animations look great. Some weapons have alternate fire modes and bullets can penetrate weak materials meaning you can shoot and kill enemies taking cover behind certain objects and structures.
Call of Duty 4 can be a very intense and fast-paced game. As expected, the environments will keep you and the action contained which helps keep the pacing consistent. Many firefights are set in small open areas often with plenty of vertical space to navigate and multiple routes so you can engage enemies from different positions and vantage points. You can engage them head-on or try to find a way to flank them and many environments contain buildings with multiple floors, rooms and windows. Taking cover is crucial for survival as is positioning.
Despite the fact you’ll be completing all the objectives on your own, you’ll never be alone. You’ll always be accompanied by friendly soldiers. Many times, you’ll have to follow your squad or an NPC and friendlies prove to be pretty good shots. In fact, the AI across the board proves to be more than adequate. Friendlies and enemies will shoot at and kill each other and lob grenades and many times, friendlies would kill all the enemies during a breach before I even had the chance to get a shot off.
One of the more interesting missions in the game is “All Ghillied Up”. This is a sniper mission which I think is actually kind of refreshing for the series because it’s not just constant action. However, this mission is still your typical linear Call of Duty experience. It’s just quieter. Your character is in a Ghillie Suit and your objective is to follow the NPC and do what he says. This is one of the more immersive parts of the game but can also be one of the most boring and that’s because you are literally guided through the areas and told when to engage foes.
You have virtually no freedom to make decisions besides to kill or not to kill during this mission. You and the action are still contained and the stealth is simply an illusion to get you immersed. The only reason you don’t get spotted is because you’re doing what you’re told and the game makes it very clear what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. One wrong move and you’re spotted and then it quickly turns into the typical shooting-fest which may even result in your death. This mission is one of the quietest segments in the series up to this point and that, alone, makes it standout and somewhat memorable. The idea that you’re running through buildings and fields in a Ghillie Suit, hiding from enemies, and picking off targets from a distance is kind of cool and a nice change of pace.
When you really get down to it, this mission just exposes the true nature of the Call of Duty single player experience. Instead of being distracted by tons of action, you’re supposed to get immersed into the stealth elements. But the linearity and hand holding along with the lack of action and slow-paced nature of this mission can result in it becoming boring, especially on subsequent playthroughs. The Ghillie Suit, hiding in the grass, and crawling under vehicles to avoid detection are all part of the illusion of stealth designed to get you immersed into the sneaky sniper aspect but at it’s core, this is exactly what Call of Duty has always been. A guided linear experience but without all the gunfire, explosions, and shouting to keep you distracted.
This mission technically guides you with the objective marker and linear environmental design just like most other missions, and in this case it’s conveyed through the NPC. You follow him the whole time. He literally is the objective marker and he guides you through the environments. You move when he moves, you go where he goes, you get down when he gets down. You do all that and you’ll be fine. In some ways, this mission restricts you more than others. If you look around, you can easily see that you’re contained and there’s not a lot of room to explore or experiment. If you do exactly what you’re told, there’s basically no challenge here.
Most missions in the game are loud and action-packed. You’ll have to destroy things, capture locations and defend areas. You’ll move through a mix of rural and urban locations and shoot your way through a TV station, cargo ship, farm, and launch facility. Firefights typically look and feel awesome with bullets zipping around everywhere as you quickly move from area to area taking cover behind things like buildings, structures, and vehicles, leaning out from cover to pick off baddies so you can continue to push forward. It’s always clear where you need to go so you should never get lost and the game does give you an incentive to explore in the form of intel. Intel acts as a collectible and if you collect enough, you’ll unlock cheats that can be applied on subsequent playthroughs.
Beating the campaign for the first time not only allows you to use cheats but also unlocks the Arcade mode. In this mode, you can play through the campaign again or specific missions and try for high scores. You are timed in each mission and start with a certain amount of lives and killing enemies in quick succession will result in multipliers. I enjoy this mode a lot because it adds some replay value to the short campaign and the time limit ensures you keep moving.
I do wish is that the campaign was a bit longer. You can rush through it in about four hours and I think when I first played it years ago, I beat in a single sitting and remember thinking “that’s it?” when it was all over. The run and gun action can be so fun and intense that I wish there was more of it. Also, the action does slow down here and there like when you have to follow NPCs to specific locations or the intro sequence which could have just as well been a skippable cut scene.
The slow downs only standout because the campaign is so short. I was having the most fun when I was running around the streets, villages, and some of the other areas picking off baddies, clearing rooms, shooting through walls, looking for different ways to engage foes and exploring for intel, and the game does offer some cool set pieces and scripted sequences. You’ll have to provide air support from a gunship, rescue a downed pilot, and ride in a truck and shoot at the enemies pursuing you.
I think what really took the world by storm was the game’s multiplayer component. It features typical game types like Free For All, Team Deathmatch, Domination and several objective-based modes and you can can even play it in the Hardcore mode which offers a more unforgiving and realistic experience. What really makes the multiplayer so much fun is the ranking and reward systems. Back when I got this on 360, I really enjoyed the gameplay but was getting tired of the playing through the campaign repeatedly so I eventually jumped into the multiplayer and got hooked. It becomes addictive.
As you play, you’ll gain experience and eventually rank up and unlock new stuff. You’ll be able to create custom classes with your own choice of weapons, their skins, attachments and different perks. You can earn killstreaks that reward you with things like airstrikes and helicopter support which you can activate during the match. Just like the campaign, the multiplayer can be very fast-paced and intense, but win or lose, there’s a good chance you’ll rank up or complete a challenge and unlock something.
As of this review, the original Call of Duty 4’s multiplayer is still active. I did play the Steam version and most of the severs I found indicated I needed to downgrade my version of the game. One of the servers I joined did that for me and even installed the CoD4X client which aims to fix bugs and enhance the gameplay. As for the Remastered version, the multiplayer does come with some new stuff but I can’t really get into it because I couldn’t find any matches which I thought was very odd. I found one or two players on a few occasions but never got any games going.
In my experience, a lot of the servers I found in the original multiplayer featured many bots but there are still people that play and from what I saw, most of them were at the highest rank which I guess is to be expected. Needless to say, I got destroyed often. The original game does not officially support bots but there are some bot mods out there should you want to play offline against bots for any reason and the Remastered version does support bots for private matches.
I remember Call of Duty 4 looked incredible for its time. I had never seen production values like what was on display here. The textures, the lighting, the visual effects – combined with the intensity of the gameplay – it all looked and felt incredible. I would say the original game still holds up rather well but the Remastered version does look noticeably better. It features enhanced visuals, updated animations, and new and revised sound effects. On the technical side, both versions ran smooth for me and the only bug I encountered was in the original game. An objective did not trigger, forcing me to restart the mission.
I had a blast with Call of Duty 4. My biggest issue with it is that the campaign is just way too short. The action is fast-paced and intense, the production values blew me away at the time and still look good, the Remastered version looks incredible, and the multiplayer still proves to be a lot of fun and can be very addictive. Unfortunately, I can’t speak for the Remastered multiplayer because I had a hell of a time getting into matches but, luckily, as of this review the original game’s multiplayer is still active.
When I really think about it, Call of Duty 4 was an incredible package for its time. The campaign may be short but it is explosive and exciting and the presentation and modern setting made it feel refreshing despite the fact it’s your typical Call of Duty experience. Then there’s the multiplayer which basically changed the multiplayer scene and catapulted the game and series to stardom, not that it was unpopular before. Call of Duty 4 just turned it into something else. Many shooters that came after it would borrow elements from it or outright feel like a “Call of Duty clone” as some would say. It’s a game that left that kind of impact. Like it or hate, it changed things.
I would recommend Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare to anyone. As it relates to the campaign, I would say the Remastered version is the way to go at this point. It’s a faithful remaster and nothing significant was lost in the transition as far as I’m concerned. It’s the same fun campaign but it looks a lot better. As fun as the campaign is, I think it’s the multiplayer that will probably keep you coming back. I also think it’s worth mentioning that there are plenty of mods out there for the original game. Overall, Call of Duty 4 is a great package. Definitely check it out.